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FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Duo Sonata in A, Op. 162, D. 574, for violin and piano

October 18, 2009 – David Chan, violin; Jeewon Park, piano

Although Schubert was never a great instrumental virtuoso in the mold of Paganini or Liszt, he grew up in a family that loved music, and he performed from his earliest years as a singer, violinist, organist, and pianist. His schoolteacher father, an amateur cellist, organized family string quartet sessions in which the young Franz played the violin and viola, and he often performed the piano parts for his own songs and chamber works.

In 1816, at the age of 19, Schubert composed three sonatas for violin and piano (later published as “Sonatinas”), which demonstrated his hands-on knowledge of both instruments and the influence of Beethoven’s works for that combination. The following summer, his lyrical sensibilities now in full flower, the 20-year-old Schubert wrote the exquisite “Duo” in A major for violin and piano. The entire work is an unbroken stream of graceful, beautifully crafted melody, reflecting his quintessential genius for song. Although the designation “Duo” was not appended to the A-Major sonata until its publication some 23 years after his death, the aptness of the title is justified by the continuous dialogue between the two instruments, particularly in the third and fourth movements.

The Allegro moderato begins with a strolling, dotted-rhythm piano figure over which the violin floats a sweet and constantly evolving melodic line. The piano contributes to the thematic dialogue, but the violin dominates the musical texture of this uncommonly lovely movement.

Taking a cue from Beethoven, Schubert follows the first movement with an exuberantly heroic Scherzo, featuring leaping intervals, brusque cross rhythms, and unexpected juxtapositions of forte and piano. A soft, sinuous chromatic violin scale announces the contrasting trio, which is characterized by a subtle dynamic range and trimly gliding intervals.

The piano fully establishes its musical partnership in the lyrical, 3/8 Andantino. Composed in the ABA form of one of his Lieder, Schubert provides a mellow “duet without words” in which the violin and piano contribute equally to the musical discourse.

The final Allegro vivace continues the melodic interweaving of the violin and piano parts. Cast as a whirling Viennese waltz, the movement brings Schubert’s Duo Sonata to a buoyant conclusion.

By Michael Parloff

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